Overview: Sylvester Stallone gathers some friends to pay a third homage to 80s testosterone fueled action movies. Lionsgate 2014; Rated PG-13; 126 minutes
We Know: Nobody goes to an Expendables movie expecting the next Goodfellas. We’re all coming for a throwback to 80s action movies were a single bullet can blow up an entire building, and action heroes speak through their biceps in one-liners. The action still needs to be filmed well enough and the story needs enough momentum to support a narrative built on action. Thankfully this is the first Expendables movie that functions as an actual movie and not just a 2 hour machine that pumps out explosions and callbacks to action movie classics. Personally, I still prefer the schlocky glee of Expendables 2. The tradeoff is Expendables 3 doesn’t go full on crazy with its premise like the second installment. It often feels restrained. It’s still violent. We just don’t see blood and nobody’s head explodes.
Archaeological Action Scenes: A final fight between Mel Gibson and Stallone punctuates the film. It’s bare-knuckled brawl that would feel more comfortable in a bar than it does amidst a warzone. Stallone and Gibson exchange a few punches, toss each other around a bit, and… no spoilers but you know exactly how it ends.
There are moments that are injected with fun, mainly thanks to the fresh additions to the elder Expendables. An opening scene with the core Expendables breaking Wesley Snipes out of a train is played for some meta laughs and sets a wonderful tone that carries over from the previous installment. Why are the Expendables breaking out Wesley Snipes (called Doctor Death here)? Because he’s been in prison for 8 years. Why wait so long? Well… they couldn’t actually break Snipes out of real prison so he could star in the previous movies, so they waited. The other new addition that stands out is Antonio Banderas as the chatter-box mercenary known as Galgo. In the hands of another actor, this character is a recipe for testosterone-filled Jar Jar Binks. Don’t get me wrong, this performance might be considered terrible and bat-shit crazy. But it’s so bat-shit crazy, it feels right at home with the rest of this bat-shit crazy movie. The only other actor who borrows more limelight than Banderas is Gibson as the villain. Gibson brings physicality and – believe it or not – psychology to the former Expendable, making him by far the best villain in the franchise (Van Damme still gets points for playing a villain named Vilain. VILAIN).
Far less entertaining are the young addition to the Expendables. Ramon Ortiz, Rhonda Roussey, Kellan Lutz, and Glen Powell all look like they’re able to kick some serious ass, but they don’t have much going on in their acting pedigree. It doesn’t help matters when Act 2 is spent almost entirely with these kids fighting alongside old-man Stallone.
Final Thoughts: The first and third act are worth checking out, but the middle portion of the movie comes to a screeching halt, and the final confrontation lacks energy. This is Riggs vs Rambo. Why tone it down to slap boxing? These guys should be tossing each other through walls as they dodge loose machine gunfire and falling helicopters. Not much lazy, but not enough crazy.